I’m not being radical when I insist on Medicare for All, and neither are you.

My son, Mike. This is before he began to starve. I promised my family I wouldn’t show photos of him as he neared death because it’s just too painful for them to remember him that way.

Eleven years ago today, I talked to Mike about what he’d been able to eat. At last Tuesday’s chemo appointment, the doctor had said he needed to put on two pounds before the next chemo session. He was down to 104 pounds. If he couldn’t put on weight it was because the cancer was causing his body to not absorb nutrients. He was starving to death, in other words.
While he was having his infusion, I walked over to Duke Chapel. If you’ve never seen the Duke Chapel, you should know it’s magnificent. It seemed like a good place to beg for two pounds.
Since Tuesday, Mike and I had talked about food and little else. What was he eating? How much? Other than a couple of Cadbury Creme Eggs, that is. Half a bagel. A scrambled egg. A couple of bites of a hamburger …
The question was whether this would be enough to put on two pounds.
I’ll bet most of you have never watched your child starve to death. It’s a terrible thing. No, beyond terrible. You can’t ever get that picture of your frail, starving child out of your head. Even when I remember him as healthy, that vision intrudes to tell me, “Yeah, but this is how the story ends. The guy starves to death.”
Try and stay calm about health care policy when your starving kids keeps popping in to remind you health care should be a human right.
Yes, I come off as angry. That’s because I am, and justifiably so. My child was killed by this system. Sixteen years before my son was murdered by this system, in 1992, I was writing about the failing of our health care system. We had 17 million uninsured Americans then. Today we’re happy to see the count down from a high of 45 to 50 million uninsured in 2013 to about 35 million now. That’s right, we’re celebrating that the number is only double what it was in 1992, when Bill Clinton was promising to try and fix it. Of course, the health care lobby swooped in and vilified Hillary and spread blatant lies about how Medicare for all would kill us all.
So, we got nothing, and 11 years after my son died, we’ve made very little progress.
In 2010, two years after my son died, we abandoned all hope of pushing a sensible health care system through Congress. President Obama caved and started negotiating with a Republican-crafted plan, asking for a public option — a way for ordinary citizens to buy into Medicare instead of lining the pockets of some for-profit insurance company. But that was too much. We had to leave the profit-hungry insurance companies in charge of our “care.”
Still, I got on board. I pushed for passage of the Affordable Care Act and celebrated when it passed because we had made some baby steps.
Then the Republicans refused to cooperate, suing to try to overturn the law and getting the bone from the Supreme Court of allowing states to not expand Medicaid.
I stayed on board, training to be a Navigator so I could help people find insurance, and with it, the care they needed.
Well, Republicans continued to attack the law, voting some 70 times to repeal it, and managing to weaken it. The Marketplace plans have become more and more unaffordable for too many people, and the numbers of uninsured are rising once again.
But something that happened last summer broke me. A woman came in looking for an insurance plan for her 30-year-old son. The young man had health problems that prevented him from working full-time, so his income didn’t quite reach poverty level. In North Carolina, that means you’re shit out of luck, and I had to tell her that, albeit in somewhat more polite terms.
She began to weep. “My son is going to die,” she sobbed. “Do you know how that feels?”
I told her I know exactly how that feels and we hugged and cried.
That was my last appointment as a Navigator. I can’t continue to be a good little peasant and beg for crumbs. I can’t continue to be polite when more than 20,000 Americans are dying each year from lack of access to health care.
And I will not continue to vote for candidates who promise a gradual fix, knowing full well they’re not going to get anything done.
If you want my vote, you will come out for an immediate system overhaul. No more, “we can’t do it because insurance companies will suffer.” or “it’s too big to do it all at once.” You will support Medicare for All or you will not get my vote.
I will work to get others to make this same pledge. I will work to make you unelectable if you don’t support getting people the care they need. If enough of us come out and make this pledge, Democrats might figure out they can’t win without us.
Eleven years ago today, I still had a glimmer of hope that I might have a few months left with my precious son. It was not to be. We had three weeks and one day left.

A lesson in what Jesus would not do

El Greco, “The Miracle of Christ Healing the Blind.”

Walking around the Legislature Building the other day, talking to Democrats and Republicans about the necessity of expanding access to health care, it happened again: Every Republican asked me whether my son was working when he got sick.

I gave them my usual answer: Yes, he was working and he was a full-time student with a 3.75 GPA. Now let me ask you a question. When did unemployment become punishable by death?

Every one of them replied, “Well, you know, some people just want a handout.”

“No,” I replied, “nobody wants a handout. I’ve worked with people in poverty. I’ve been in poverty. Nobody wants a handout.

“And another thing. Health care is not a handout. Never. Health care is a basic human right.

“And do you know what we call people who deny basic human rights to others?

“We call them fascists.”

I’m pretty sure every one of these Republicans calls themselves a Christian, so I’d like to offer a little pop quiz to them.

Question 1: Jesus is walking along and a blind man approaches him, begging for help. Does Jesus:

A) Tell the man he needs to get a job with health insurance.

B) Ask to see the man’s health insurance card and then say, “Oh, this isn’t covered under your plan. We can squeeze you in this afternoon, but you’ll have to bring $2300 cash. We don’t take checks.”

C) Tell the blind man to go to the Emergency Room so someone can take a look at him there.

D) Heal the blind man, no questions asked.

Question 2: Jesus is walking along the road and he feels as though power has drained from him. He turns to see an old woman, stooped low, who has had vaginal bleeding for years. She has touched the hem of his robe, hoping to be healed. Does Jesus:

A) Recoil in horror at the unclean woman and demand she be removed from his presence.

B) Tell her she can get free feminine hygiene supplies at the County Health Department.

C) Tell her she’s guilty of Eve’s Original Sin and what’s happened to her is exactly what she deserves.

D) Smile and say, “Your faith has healed you,” as she stands straight, no longer bleeding and thanks him profusely.

Question 3: Jesus is walking along and a man comes to him in a panic. The man’s son is possessed by a demon and the father is afraid it will kill the child. Does Jesus:

A) Tell the father there’s no such thing as demons and he should take the child to see a good neurologist.

B) Tell the father this looks like a mental illness and that’s not covered under his employer’s plan, but the next time the child has a “fit,” the parents should call the police, who will come and handcuff the boy, throw him in the back of a squad car and take him to the ER, where he’ll be handcuffed to a gurney until a psychiatric bed becomes available. Could be a couple of days.

C) Tell the father the demon is punishment for his own sins, so he’d better figure out what he did and pray really hard for forgiveness, and if he prays hard enough, the child will be healed. If the child remains possessed, it’s because the parents aren’t praying hard enough. (The irony here is that the disciples asked why they couldn’t heal the sick and Jesus told them their faith wasn’t strong enough — just in case you thought I didn’t know my Bible stuff.)

D) Heal the child, no co-pays or deductibles charged, no questions asked.

I’m not going to tell you the answers. You can figure them out for yourself. I think if you’re the Christian you say you are, if you read the words of the man you claim to follow and take them seriously, you’ll get the answers right.

I think if you truly believe we can and should allow people to die because those of us with the privilege of access to health care think they’re somehow undeserving of what we have, then you’ll fail this quiz.

What’s worse, though, is that you fail as a moral human being, no matter what faith you claim.

Poverty is lethal — and it’s not necessary

These things all take time, something that poor people have very little to spare.

I saw a meme the other day about how to nurture a child. It included things like reading together, praising, practicing relaxation exercises together, taking walks together — the operative word here, of course, is together.
It all boiled down to quality time, and it set something off in me.
I commented that people in poverty, people who have to work two and three jobs just to keep body and soul together, might not be able to do all these things, and some woman said, “These things don’t take money, LOL.”
I was furious.
LOL? Really? I asked her whether she had ever skipped a meal to make sure there was enough, for the kids, LOL. I mean, that one’s a regular LOL riot, isn’t it?
People with the privilege of a living wage have no idea what it’s like to live in poverty, of how the system keeps poor people down.
Let’s say your three $8-an-hour part-time jobs pay the rent and for food, but just barely. You’re already working 60-plus hours a week, so you can’t just get another job. Your crappy apartment is $1,200 a month and the landlord won’t take care of the leaky faucet or the hole in the kitchen floor. The heat quits regularly. But this is the best you can find for what you can pay.
Poor people can’t afford a flat tire. Poor people can’t afford to be sick.
So, let’s say the flat tire means the utility bill is late. When the power gets shut off, you don’t just have to pay the amount due, you have to pay a service charge, which might make your rent late this month.
When you get home to your kids, it’s already supper time. Have they done their homework? Well, you can ask that after supper, unless, of course, it’s already bed time. Should you read to your child or do the laundry? Last time your kid showed up to school in a dirty shirt, the school threatened to call in Child Protection Services for neglect. So you do the laundry.
If you can’t afford a car — and  millions of low-wage workers can’t — you need bus service, which just isn’t available in rural areas, and in bigger towns and cities, a bus ride across town can be an hour and a half.
And what about when you have to work evenings or weekends? There are no child care centers open for evening, overnight or weekend shifts.
Poverty is completely unnecessary. It is a political construct designed to create a permanent underclass to serve the very wealthy.
When my boys were little, the only way I could get help with day care was to quit my job and go on Aid to Families with Dependent Children.
I decided to work. I worked hard, but I just couldn’t get ahead. Every time I got caught up, something happened to set me back — and when you’re barely getting by, a flat tire can set you back six months. Forget about a new starter or alternator. I once spent a month parking my car on hills so I could do a rolling start because I couldn’t afford a new starter.
When my older son was 7 he became a latchkey kid because I had money for groceries or day care, but not for both. He would call me when he got home from school, and when I hung up, I would go into the bathroom and cry because I couldn’t take care of him the way I wanted to.
The school was constantly after me because my younger son was severely ADHD and they wanted him on drugs, even though his grades were stellar and he consistently tested in the 98th and 99th percentile in verbal abilities, reading and math. Finally, they reported me to Child Protection Services for neglect. I couldn’t afford an attorney to fight it, so we tried the Ritalin. He hated it. Said he didn’t feel like himself when he took it. But the teacher was happy because he wasn’t up out of his seat during class.
After 3 months, he begged me to take him off the drugs. I told him he would have to find a way to sit still because the risk of him being taken away from me was very real.
I couldn’t afford private school, which would have recognized his abilities, so we had to do this right in a public school setting where the most important thing wasn’t his brilliance, but the teacher’s need to have a quiet classroom.
Michael stayed in his seat every day for three months. When his teacher called to say he’d been disruptive that day, I confessed we’d thrown away the last three months’ supply of the drug and we would not put him back on it under any circumstances. I threatened to go public if they attempted to take him from me, and they let it go.
By this time, I had remarried and although I still couldn’t afford an attorney, I was not in poverty any longer.
But then Michael started experimenting with drugs, and by the time he was 15, he was dabbling in all kinds of stuff. Later, after he’d been clean and sober for several years, he told me the gateway drug had been Ritalin. It had altered his mind when he was on it, and made him wonder what other drugs might do. He insisted he wouldn’t have tried other drugs if he’d not been on Ritalin. I believed him.
At age 19, he took some time off school and was removed from our insurance plan. We didn’t realize that time off school would mean he’d never be able to buy insurance again, and in Savannah, Ga., no doctor would do a damn thing for him until it was too late to save his life. That time off school turned out to be a death sentence for him.
Poverty is lethal. It is deeply, deeply immoral. People who are affected by it suffer and die needlessly, while people of privilege call them lazy.
Poverty is a choice made by legislators and policymakers to allow some people to suffer. And it must end.

Heaven has walls?

I call this bad theology and bad business.

Recently, a “Christian” grocery store sent out a mailer claiming Heaven has walls, a gate and a strict immigration policy, and Hell has open borders. Then it uses the hackneyed phrase, “Let that sink in.”

On a Facebook post about this, a woman commented with a quote from Revelations certifying that, indeed, Heaven is gated and guarded. I suggested that a fevered hallucination by an old man alone on an island isn’t the best way to make public policy, and, of course, she went off. After a couple of exchanges, where she called me some nasty names, I replied that she probably should pay more attention to the words printed in red, since, as a Christian, she’s supposed to follow those words. I told her the theology of hate and exclusion is pretty effed up in my opinion because I don’t get any racism and bullying from those words in red. What I do get is the Greatest Commandment, which is in two parts: Love God, love each other.

I grew up among “Christians” who wanted to exclude everyone who wasn’t their brand of “Christian.” In fact, there was constant talk of taking over the country.

This was in the 1960s, when we were actually making progress on social justice issues, and they hated it. They hated giving the vote to African-Americans. They hated giving women the power to live on their own and manage their own finances, get credit in their own name, control their own bodies — to be human in our own right. They were vocal and mean-spirited about their hatred of anything different, and they used the Bible to back up their narrow-minded views.

There was actually a guest preacher at my church in 1969 who, from the pulpit, said, “We are doing God’s good work in Vietnam, killing those godless (racial epithet for Asians).”

I approached him after the service to say I don’t think God wants us killing any of God’s children. My pastor scolded me for being disrespectful, but I countered that I was being very respectful — respectful of the lives of God’s Asian children.

These so-called “Christians” ran candidates for school board to try and get their narrow-minded, mean-spirited views into the schools. They took over local elections and then moved on to the state and national levels.

The creature currently squatting in the White House is their creation, and they embrace him because he is as filled with hatred as they are.

It took them decades, but they are powerful now, these so-called “Christians.” Jesus would be appalled at their interpretations of his words.

I have no patience for hate, bigotry and exclusion in the name of Jesus, a man who preached love and inclusion.

For 30 years, I had to hold my tongue when faced with these things because I was a reporter and I had to be unbiased. Franklin Graham thought I liked and admired him when I interviewed him. Maybe that’s why I’m so vocal about it now. Because silence in the face of injustice is, in itself, an injustice.

People who call themselves “Christian” and who spew their hatred in the name of Jesus are just wrong. Christians have used the Bible for generations to uphold racism and misogyny, and we need to call that out every time we see it.

We can’t allow religion to be used as a club to beat those who are already down, and we can’t stand by while the public policies of hate embraced by these “Christians” continue to harm and even kill our impoverished brothers and sisters.

 

 

 

 

The sacred walks among us in many unexpected forms

Onstage at the annual Moral March on Raleigh, from the left, NC NAACP President Rev. Dr. T. Anthony Spearman; NC NAACP Health Care Committee Chair Rev. Dr. Rodney Sadler; Debbie Bracer, whose son died from lack of access to health care, and me. 
Yesterday, I stood onstage at the 13th Annual Moral March on Raleigh, in solidarity with a woman whose son died from lack of access to health care.
Debbie is a couple years younger than I am. She still has two sons, but she weeps every time she utters the name of the one she doesn’t have anymore. Still. Two years out.
He was denied the drug he needed to survive because he wasn’t rich enough to afford it, and he died. She spoke about the pain of not being able to touch him, or hear his voice, as tears dripped onto her jacket.
She used a cane to stand, and I stood on her other side, my arm around her shoulders. Others stood with us to emphasize that we stand together for access to health care for everyone.
Before she spoke, she looked out at the crowd. Previously, she had told me she didn’t know if she could get through her speech, so I told her I’d be there to finish it for her if she couldn’t get through it.
But as she looked out at the crowd, she stood a little straighter. She handed the photo of her son to me and whispered, “I can do this.”
And then she did.
He looked just like his mama. They had the same smile, the same eyes.
Debbie feels as though the world doesn’t just hate her for being black, but also because she is a lesbian. She left a bad marriage after her third son was born and realized she had married for all the wrong reasons.
I wondered how anyone could hate a loving mother, a woman who fought so hard for her child’s life, when she told me, “I have two strikes against me in the eyes of powerful people.”
As I left the stage with Debbie, I recalled a middle school Sunday school class from a dozen or so years ago.
The lesson was “The Unexpected Jesus,” and the kids and I discussed what Jesus would look like if he came back today. We discussed the parameters first: It would have to be someone reviled by many Christians. It would have to be someone powerless in today’s power structure.
We talked about the Unexpected Jesus, the Jesus who ate with prostitutes and tax collectors, who spurned and challenged the powerful. We talked about the carpenter’s son, who recruited a few fishermen and changed the world.
So, we agreed that this Unexpected Jesus could come in many forms, not just that of a Jewish carpenter’s son from a small village in Galilee.
Suddenly someone said, “I think he’d come back as a big black lesbian.”
The room was quiet for a moment, and then we all blurted out something to the effect of, “Perfect!”
Now every time I see a black lesbian suffering because of her skin color and/or sexual orientation, I see Jesus.
I saw Jesus in Debbie yesterday, in the kindness and love of a woman who has lost something so precious it can’t be verbalized. All she can do us weep at the mention of her precious child’s name. I saw a woman whose human value is called into question because of her skin color and sexual orientation instead of a woman crushed by the grief of losing her child to injustice.
But I don’t see Jesus only in the life of my new friend. Jesus is so much more than that.
I see Jesus in the Latino child in a cage.
I see Jesus in the veteran who can’t get treatment for PTSD.
I see Jesus in the girl who has been kidnapped into sexual slavery.
I see Jesus in the faithful Muslim.
I see Jesus in the bereaved mother whose son died from lack of access to health care.
I see him in the low-wage worker whose rent and electric bill are coming due the same day and whose children are hungry and ill-clothed, and in the trans man who’s being harassed in the rest room, and in the homeless person who’s being chased from the sheltered doorway during a rainstorm.
I do not see him in the people calling for a wall at the Southern border, or in the people refusing to vote to increase the minimum wage to a living wage. I don’t see him in the people who make excuses for racism or misogyny. I don’t see him in the people who deny others the health care to which they themselves have full access, or in the people who accuse poor people of being lazy.
If you see Jesus in the powerful and not in the powerless, perhaps you need to re-read the red print in the Gospels. Perhaps you also need to go back and read the laws in the Old Testament — not the ones that talk about sex, but the ones that talk about treatment of the poor and downtrodden.
I’m tired of white privilege. I’m tired of the vitriol against people who are different, whoever or whatever they are.
I’m tired of the war on the poor.
Remember, Jesus was a poor man, likely a dark-skinned man. He spoke out against wealth and the privilege it brings. If you don’t see the sacred in Debbie, you need to re-examine your faith.

It’s OK to feel overwhelmed. We all need relief.

You needed this. You’re welcome.

We’re all feeling it — that sense that something’s about to come crashing down.

I find myself checking my phone for headlines far more than I ever did before, wondering what fresh hell awaits as I do it.

I wake up with a sense of dread over what the fool in the White House is going to do today, and I go to sleep fearful of what he’ll do before the sun comes up again.

Day after day, the outrages pile up — the refusal to disavow racism, and in fact, a flaunting of it, from calling a political opponent Pocahontas because she claims some Native American heritage to saying “some good people” were among the fascists marching in Charlottesville, Va., and calling a black man a “son of a bitch” for taking a knee in protest of racism in America. He refers to countries where people of color are in the majority as “shitholes.”

Every day, some important regulation is rolled back, regulations that govern our treatment of the environment, the food supply, labor, students, women, immigrants and children. If it’s there to protect us from corporate greed, it’s a target.

And Mitch McConnell, a man I like to call Traitor Turtle, protects him at every turn, helping him to dismantle the government. His hypocrisy is breath-taking.

Still, a vocal minority supports them, probably because they love to hate. They love having permission to hate anyone who disagrees with them or doesn’t look like they do. They embrace ignorance, and the Republican party  McConnell leads celebrates their ignorance.

Remember, the Creature admitted to being a sexual predator before he was elected, and he shows no sign of having any respect for women as human beings. He appointed a sexual predator to the Supreme Court and mocked the man’s victim — and the Republicans in the Senate voted to approve this completely unqualified nominee.

I keep asking how much damage will be allowed before we finally put a stop to it.

But there are some bright spots. We’re finally beginning to see some rebellion against the Creature currently squatting in the White House, and it’s great fun to see Nancy Pelosi toying with this overgrown toddler. Her expertise in politics and her intellect stand in stark contrast to his immaturity and ignorance. He’s used to being the boss and of being able to fire or sue anyone who displeases him, and he can’t do that now. The best part of it is that she obviously doesn’t care what he thinks of her. She will not permit him to interrupt or talk over her. She calls him out on his lies. And she does all of it without raising her voice.

And then there’s Alexandria Ocasio-Cortez, who’s driving the patriarchs crazy with her refusal to bow to their idea of how a “lady” behaves in the House and her popular ideas for fixing our broken systems. She just might succeed in leading us away from oligarchy and fascism. I love her mocking of Mitch McConnell. Give her a few years’ experience in the House and I’ll support her for whatever higher office she wants.

In the 1960s, the top photo helped to change people’s minds about civil rights. Let’s hope the lower photo makes us wake up to the hate that lives among us now.

There’s the way the kids in MAGA hats taunting a Native American went viral with its condemnation of the kids, the school, the young man’s mother blaming Black Muslims for her son’s racist behavior. That kid’s nasty smirk is up all over social media, as are those of his classmates. His racism, his sense of white entitlement, have been roundly trashed.

But too many Native Americans still live in abject poverty as our government keeps trying to exploit their sacred lands for profit.

Too many African-American children go to schools that are ill-equipped and falling apart, and then are targets for cops with guns, who claim to be in fear for their lives even though the victim was unarmed — and then they get away with murder.

Too many LatinX people are afraid to live their lives — whether or not they are documented.

Too many people of every race and ethnicity are poor or living on the edge while our government refuses to raise minimum wage to a living wage. Instead, they cut taxes on the wealthy and impose more taxes on the poor, all while calling people who need help “lazy.”

Too many young people are forced into the military to fight our needless, profit-producing wars on foreign soil through the poverty draft — a promise of benefits after four or five tours of duty in combat zones. And when these young people finally come home, suffering from depression and PTSD, we ignore them.

And, still, too many people are dying from lack of access to health care.

Yes, I’m overwhelmed.

No, I won’t give up, and neither should you.

 

 

This chaos could destroy us

This is the look of a petulant toddler holding his breath until he gets $5 billion to keep out the brown people he doesn’t like.

 

For the first time in my life, I can’t imagine how this will be resolved.

Knowing government the way I do as a history buff and a journalist always made me feel a little safer in tough times.

But this is different. This is bad on a whole other scale than Richard Nixon or George W. Bush.

I was a young adult during the Watergate hearings. We had no way of knowing how far Nixon would go to protect his presidency, but in the end, he had a shred of decency in him, just enough to know he had to resign for the good of the nation.

But what we have now is an incompetent fool in the White House, a creature who’s obviously mentally ill and very dangerous. He’s a pathological liar, a sociopath and a hate-spewing bigot who cares nothing for anybody other than himself.

His vice president is just as dangerous as he is, a fundamentalist “Christian” who wants to transform this nation into a theocracy.

We have chaos in the Middle East, much of it caused by our oil policies and by our blind support of Israeli policies toward the Palestinians, led by people like Pence who want Armageddon to come so Jesus will return, and today we hear that Prime Minister Netanyahu’s government is being dissolved and new elections are being called for the spring.

And, while I’m happy to see American soldiers coming home, I fear the abrupt manner in which they’re being removed from Syria and Afghanistan will cause massive instability.

Wall Street is in free fall, thanks to this creature’s ranting about firing the Fed Chair, his trade wars, his insistence on $5 billion to build a wall most of us don’t want, his firing of anyone who tries to talk sense into him and his denigration of our allies.

Our government is partially shut down, meaning 800,000 people are without a paycheck (although Congress is not among them). Half the Cabinet is missing and the other half is incompetent. I mean, a man with the nickname, “Mad Dog” was considered to be the most moderate person in the room.

And Mad Dog Mattis was tasked with keeping this slovenly, tantrum-throwing toddler in an old white man’s body in line.

I don’t think we can survive another two years with this creature in the White House, but I don’t see Republicans moving to remove him before the damage is too severe to repair. This man could cause worldwide economic collapse, but the Republicans continue to sit on their hands, and the Democrats are doing nothing to force them out of their stupor.

He has fired the Secretary of Defense and replaced him with a businessman who has no experience in government. That’s right, we have a novice in charge of the largest military in the world. He fired the Attorney General and replaced him with a lackey. He seated a sexual predator and drunk on the Supreme Court because he knew Brett Kavanaugh would give him anything he wants in return. A hallmark of this administration is the ineptitude of all its appointments. Each federal agency is being led by someone who wants to destroy it.

I fear this creature’s supporters will resort to violence if he’s removed from office, but if he’s not removed, I fear even worse consequences for all of us.

Maybe we do need to tear it all down. Maybe a total collapse would allow us to remake society in a different way, with real rules for the wealthy and true equal opportunities for people who happen to be anything other than white and male.

But right now, today, as we look ahead to the new year, it looks bleak.

In my 66 years, I’ve never felt as though things might not be OK in the coming year. Even during the Cuban Missile Crisis, I had faith that the government could avert nuclear war, that there were people in charge who understood the weight of their decisions. That’s not true now. What we have is a petulant toddler let loose to wreak his havoc.

May we survive another year as a nation, and as a species.

We can’t let all this become normal

At a time of year when we’re supposed to be celebrating the life of a baby born in a stable because no one would offer his parents shelter, we are ripping children from their parents’ arms and incarcerating them in for-profit prisons.

 

It’s been awhile since I posted anything, mostly because I just don’t know what to say. Outrage after outrage happens daily and there’s no sign of it letting up.

We’re all waiting for Robert Mueller to lay his cards on the table, tantalized by the morsels he’s tossed out so far.

Meanwhile, children are being held in for-profit prisons for the crime of having parents who want a better life for them. Some of them are dying.

Republican legislatures continue to try and suppress the vote even as we’re left reeling from the level of their election fraud — hundreds of thousands of votes suppressed in Georgia by a Republican candidate for governor, enough to steal the election; thousands of uncounted absentee ballots in Florida, enough for Republicans to steal the election; a couple thousand absentee ballots tampered with in North Carolina, probably enough to steal the Congressional election.

In Wisconsin, the Republican lame duck legislature ripped authority from the incoming Democratic governor, just as they did here in North Carolina two years ago.

And in this Christmas season, when Christians are celebrating the birth of one whose parents could find no room at the inn, we turn away desperate people whose homelands are made treacherous by our imperialistic policies. We call them criminals and rip their children from their arms.

And because of the administration’s Muslim ban, a woman from Yemen can’t get into the country to say goodbye to her dying 2-year-old son. This is cruelty at its ugliest.

Meanwhile, we allow this administration to destroy the planet with its policies that are bought and paid for by Big Oil. We allow the carnage caused by unfettered access to guns to continue. We allow huge chemical companies to poison our food and water with pesticides and herbicides.

The thug currently occupying the White House spews hate and threatens our First Amendment rights, appoints people to positions where they can pillage our heritage, and people who claim to be Christian cheer him on, vilifying the poor and the immigrant as though the poor and the stranger are the people who are ruining this nation.

This country was built on the backs of slaves, indentured servants and immigrants, but few of them attained any power because that was already reserved for white men, who feel free to abuse everyone else at will. Although we claim to be a land where anyone with drive can make it big, we reserve wealth and power for the few.

Just thinking about all we have to overcome to bring about justice can seem overwhelming, but if we don’t bring about justice for everyone, the 1 percent will be the only ones to prosper.

We can’t allow all these outrageous behaviors become the norm. We can’t accept this deep, deep immorality.

I still have hope that we can fight the 1 percent and win such humane policies as a living wage for everyone, safe housing, a good education, health care, universal suffrage, a justice system that works for everyone, a reduction in the military budget …

We can’t effect these changes through social media, although it’s a great tool for educating — or mis-educating — people, as Russian hackers know all too well.

We have to show up. We have to vote in such numbers that their cheating won’t be enough to keep them in power.

We have to take to the streets when they steal elections. We have to be ready to do nonviolent civil disobedience.

And we have to stop accepting their lies. That means we have to work to learn the truth, and we have to call out lies.

There are some people who won’t accept the truth. These people are known as the Republican “base,” and they account for no more than 30 percent of the voting public. They won’t be convinced they’re wrong by anything we say or do, so we have to work to educate the people who will listen, who will see the injustice of putting children in for-profit prisons, the insanity of unfettered access to guns and the immorality of keeping people in poverty.

I believe we can do this. That’s why I work to organize for the Poor People’s Campaign. I’ve been arrested numerous times trying to talk to legislators about health care, and I have no plans to stop trying to speak truth to power.

Please understand that you don’t have to be arrested to work toward justice. Those of us who don’t stand to lose out jobs can do that.

But you do have to show up. You have to vote in every election, and you have to educate yourself before stepping into the voting booth. You have to let your legislators know you’re watching through phone calls, letters and e-mails. If you can, you need to show up at rallies and other events. The more people they see in the streets, the more they know we mean what we’re saying and we have the support to get rid of lawmakers who vote for unjust laws and policies.

In this coming year, I refuse to let up. I refuse to be quiet. I refuse to stand down.

As one of my favorite freedom songs says, “I am not afraid, I am not afraid. I would die for liberation, for I know why I was made.”

 

 

 

More legal lynchings. When will it stop?

Marcus Deon Smith, the man killed by Greensboro, NC, police, who hog-tied him.

On Sept. 8, Marcus Deon Smith was experiencing a mental health crisis in Greensboro, NC,when someone called police.

Yes, someone should have called police because in North Carolina, as in most places, there is no other alternative for someone in a mental health crisis.

It’s what happened next that’s the issue: Police hog-tied Smith, and he died.

For someone in crisis, being handcuffed and put in a police van is more than frightening. The person likely doesn’t understand what’s happening. By the very definition of severe mental illness, the person is confused and detached from reality.

So, rather than try and talk him down (which ALL cops should be trained to do), they treated him like an animal. They hogtied him, and he died.

I can’t even imagine the horror of his final moments.

Greensboro officials responded by saying hog-tying is an accepted form of restraint for a human being.

An accepted form of restraint. For a human.

So, of course, it’s not the officers’ fault that Smith died. He shouldn’t have been mentally ill in public, I guess, although I wasn’t aware that it was a capital offense.

Then, earlier this week, police shot and killed Jemel Roberson outside of Chicago near a nightclub where he had just apprehended a shooter. In other words, Roberson saved an unknown number of lives when he chased the shooter down and tackled him, only to die at the hands of a trigger-happy police officer.

Police claim they warned him a number of times to drop his gun — but they obviously didn’t wait for a reply, if, indeed, they did issue a warning.

 

Police Fatally Shoot Black Security Guard Who Detained Shooting Suspect

Here’s what witnesses had to say to NPR:

“Jakia Woods lives in a house adjacent to Manny’s parking lot. She said officers already on the scene had asked Roberson to release the suspect, and Roberson was complying, when another officer came through the bar’s back door.

‘”Before [Roberson] could get up off of him, the officer comes flying out this door gun up,’ Woods said Tuesday afternoon while standing on her porch. ‘He says, ‘Get on the ground,’ and before he says ‘ground,’ he fires the first shot.’

“‘Everybody is screaming and hollering,’ she said. ‘Even the officers were screaming and hollering, ‘He’s one of us. He’s one of us. He’s a security guard. He works here.’ ”

Witness Adam Harris told a television news crew that he saw the same thing. “Everybody is screaming out, ‘He’s a security guard!’ ”

But officials still claim he was issued a warning and didn’t comply. Even if he was issued a warning, was he supposed to get up off an active shooter? The cop couldn’t wait a couple of seconds for a reply?

It seems like almost every day, white mass murderers are taken alive. Hell, Dylan Roof, who executed nine people in a church in Charleston, SC, because they were black, was issued a bullet-proof vest and fed before being delivered to jail.

I was called racist last week because when the person who murdered 12 people in cold blood was identified, and even before there was a photo, I posted, “I’m betting it was a white man.”

I was right, of course, but trolls started having a field day on my news feed and I had to block almost a dozen of them.

If you can’t see the real racism around you, every day, across the entire country, I think the chances are you’re racist yourself.

Look at the news. Time and again, black people are shot and killed, and if they weren’t actually committing a crime, police find a reason to vilify them.

Michael Brown may have stolen a pack of cigars. Or he may not have, but he did argue with the shopkeeper. He was shot dead in the street by a cop who couldn’t have known about the altercation.

Philandro Castile died because an officer said he smelled pot and got scared.

Eric Garner was selling single cigarettes and suffered the death penalty at the hands of police officers who joked with each other as they watched him die.

Black and brown men die mysteriously in custody, like Freddie Gray Jr., 25, who died in a police van in Baltimore. No one was convicted of a crime.

Jesus Huerta died, supposedly of a self-inflicted gunshot wound to the head, while he was handcuffed in the back seat of a police car in Durham, NC. The teenager had been searched before being placed in the car, and his family said he didn’t own a gun.

The list goes on and on.

Meanwhile, white men are shooting people in bars and churches, synagogues, movie theaters, malls, grocery stores … but it’s black and brown men who get killed by police.

This is institutionalized racism at its meanest, and if you don’t think we’re a racist society, let me ask why black and brown people are the ones most often targeted by voting “reforms.” Let me ask why predominately black neighborhoods are split among two or three voting districts to water down their combined votes. Let me ask why white men who shoot multiple people are so often taken alive, while black and brown men are shot on sight, even after not committing any crime.

I fully expect to read that Jemel Roberson smoked pot in high school or was caught shoplifting when he was 5 because no black man is guiltless and police are always right.

Shame on us for allowing this.

 

 

 

 

 

 

 

 

The time for resistance is now

A white male terrorist killed 11 people in a synagogue on Saturday, and the pretender in the White House responded by saying they should have hired an armed guard.

I don’t even know where to begin. The violence of the last week has hit me in the heart so hard, I can’t even begin to put the feelings washing over me into words.

Children in cages and the confirmation of a Supreme Court justice who was so obviously unqualified for the job, despite the objections of millions of women and men, and bombs being mailed to prominent Democrats, weren’t bad enough, now we’re killing black people and Jews just because they’re black people and Jews.

We have a pretender in the White House claiming that armed guards would have prevented the unspeakable tragedy in Pittsburgh, even though the white male terrorist shot three armed cops.

What’s worse is the thought that people should have to worship behind armed guards. That’s preferable to banning military-style assault weapons in this country because the NRA owns Congress.

It all goes back to who has the money and power in this country, and in the last four decades, that money has bought all the power.

This is NOT the last gasp of white supremacy. This is the ascendance of absolute power for upper class whites and the war economy.

The overwhelming majority of Americans want sensible gun control laws, but we can’t get them through Congress.

The majority of Americans want campaign finance reform, but we can’t get that done.

Hillary Clinton won the 2016 election, but the Republicans cheated and placed their pretender in the White House, and they’re cheating in this election by tampering with voting machines, suppressing the vote and intimidating voters.

We have 800 military bases around the world. No one else has anywhere near that number. We are wasting our resources on a war economy because that’s what the ultra-wealthy want to protect their resources. War means profit, and they don’t care how many lower-income people die for their profit.

We don’t matter to them. We are expendable.

And even though we have abolished the draft, lower-income people have no other recourse if they can’t afford college. It’s called the Poverty Draft when the only way to a better life for young men and women is to go into lifelong debt or risk their lives in overseas adventures set up by the Pentagon.

When our nation spends about two-third of its wealth on the war machine, it prevents us from modernizing our infrastructure — or even keeping up with its decay. It takes money from research into renewable energy and necessitates our war-for-oil policies. It takes money from education — which the ultra-wealthy see as welfare, anyway.

And it makes us a more violent nation, especially when our so-called leader refuses to roundly condemn violence and racism — when he is, in fact, a violent racist and misogynist.

And the fact that he gets away with his violent rhetoric, with putting children in cages, with insisting we need a wall to keep immigrants out because they are “other,” means we no longer can call ourselves a functioning Democracy.

When he was a candidate, he said he could shoot someone in the middle of Manhattan and get away with it, and he was right. The Republican Party has condoned his every evil move.

Violent racists have been emboldened by his insistence that “there are good people” among the Nazis chanting, “Jews will not replace us.”

Back when racism and violence were considered inappropriate behavior, we thought we’d never see the likes of Nazis again, but now we’re nurturing them.

When George W. Bush was in the White House, he suggested we might “reform” Social Security and his approval ratings tanked. But now, when Mitch McConnell (the man who broke the Senate) suggests it, there’s hardly a ripple.

With the lack of regulation in the markets, we’re being set up for the worst economic collapse in history. The Great Recession will look like a little dip in comparison.

And it’s all because avarice, racism and disregard for human life are the new normal.

I’m not sure voting will be the solution anymore. We have broken down the walls between the branches of our government. If the Liar in Chief wants to nullify the elections, he owns the Supreme Court now, so he can.

We have been warned repeatedly, but we have ignored it. Remember the derision Hillary Clinton faced when she talked about a vast right-wing conspiracy? They don’t care who knows about it now because their takeover is pretty much a done deal.

And now, white male terrorists aren’t seen as the ones at fault when they walk into a synagogue and declare open season on Jews. The fault lies with the victims because they didn’t choose to worship behind armed guards.

Well, I stand with my Jewish siblings today, and my black and brown siblings because we are all children of God.

When you attack them, you attack me. I will not be silent in the face of fascism.

 

 

 

 

 

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